Shetani Msalabani
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Shetani Msalabani

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  515 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Devil on the Cross, first published in Gikuyu as Caitaani Mutharabaini (1980) and here in Swahili as Shetani Msalabani, is a portrayal of corruption and how it has entrenched itself into the society. The celebration of corruption in all its forms, forces Wariinga, whom despair has driven out of Nairobi back to her home town of llmorog, to acknowledge that her life has been...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published December 29th 1982 by East African Educational Publishers (first published 1980)
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Mary Emily O'Hara
January: Novel number two for my African Lit class. This one is my favorite so far- politically enraged and theatrical, it utilizes magical realist-esque shifts in character and context, jumping in and out of reality and all over the African map. Written on toilet paper while Ngugi was in jail.

April: Ok- a few months an two research projects on Ngugi later, I can say that this book now holds a place in my personal canon of radical literature. Devil on the Cross is just incredible. Form and style...more
Two stars, that is what the author gets from me for trying so hard to complicate a story.

But Ngugi is such a brain; one of the literary legends out of East Africa. Sometimes i wish i didnt have to read his books for Lit class. Perhaps if i had read them out of school i would have been more appreciative of them. Reading them for class made me look at them in terms of what the questions would require.

I am making a weak promise to myself to re-read them.
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz
I hesitate between 2 and 3 stars because I loved what I learned from the book and the awareness that it renewed in me about neocolonial capitalist exploitation, and I love the strongly feminist awareness and message. However, the style of writing and the way the story was constructed read more like a treatise on leftist politics than a piece of art, and so as a novel it does not wholly succeed.

Now, it is true that I and many others would not have read a non-fiction treatise on how certain membe...more
Aram Sohigian
have recently started reading about Africa and have to admit to being fairly ignorant about most African history and literature. Therefor, this review will be somewhat limited since I believe that the characters in this book are all based on cultural and social ideals and thoughts instead of actual “people” like many novels. This book was also written while Thiong’ o was in jail because of a play he wrote about the government. The then vice president of Kenya ordered his arrest. While imprisoned...more
Looking back at my reflections on this, I'm reminded of this excellent blog post about women as allegorical figures. Ngũgĩ's construction of Jacinta Wariinga as an allegorical figure for all of Kenya's struggling working class ultimately rests on sexist assumptions about gender. While Ngugi is clearly pointing out that women are exploited by black and white men alike in Kenya, he turns this concept of gender oppression into a metaphor for class oppression; any struggle for equality must ultimate...more
My first book by a Kenyan author and - so far - last, as it is hard for me to imagine there to be another novel that could compare with this masterpiece. It's a bit shameless that I read this book for a class, but most books I have read were for classes, and now that classes are over my reading list has been pretty weak - save for selections from my father's collection of books published by the Harvard Business School and Spiritual Guide books by Hindu Swamis.
Back to class, we had to share 2 cop...more
So far so boring. I feel bad judging it, seeing as I've read very little, but I don't think the translation works quite, it's missing its soul or something. Or maybe I just don't like the style. I don't get all the biblical or cultural or whatever-they-are where they just all of a sudden start telling a depressing story and repeating themselves or singing...Maybe I just don't get it, but it's not very engaging. And the names confuse me. Sooooo...finishing this book wil...more
This novel (or thinly-veiled, utterly unoriginal philosophical treatise) was an acute displeasure to read. If I had wanted to enjoy a dissertation on evil capitalist pigs, I would have read The Communist Manifesto. To compare it to The Communist Manifesto is actually an insult to The Communist Manifesto. At least Marx and Engels had the sense to stick to the realm of non-fiction (though I guess that's debatable.)

If you enjoyed this book, God bless you. You have a fortitude of spirit that I can o...more
I read this for Post Colonial lit and then saw it on my bookshelf like 2 weeks later and couldn't remember if I'd read it or not. As far as I remember it was some allegorical something about communism. I said I didn't like allegory and somehow that was hegemonic. Unipolic. Draconian.
Overall, very interesting read. My only complaint is probably that it seemed reaaaaaaaaaaaally straightforward in its analogies, so much so that it could be predictable; at the same time, I'm not sure that this isn't just my perception as someone who 1) isn't a Gikuyu speaker, 2) is reading it after it's been translated to English, and 3) isn't watching it being acted out (as it's written in a way that very heavily lends itself to being acted out).

All that said, I still found it very enjoyable...more
The novel's highlight was the way it linked patriarchy and predatory womanizing to the corruption rife within post-colonial Kenya. He beautifully parodied the "business" men of this time period by having an international thieves and robber competition and made excellent use of Biblical passages which he changed to show the relationship the new nation had to the former colonizer and other foreign companies. At times it was a bit melodramatic, but I really did enjoy watching Jacinta Wariinga becom...more
An allegorical Marxist fantasy novel crossed with a bad Pam Grier film, as filtered through the Old and New Testaments and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, among other imported and indigenous influences. Written in prison, but then so was Genet's far superior Our Lady of the Flowers, and on the same type of paper, no less. I'm a far left-wing econ student with an abiding interest in Africa and its history of capitalist exploitation, but this is a woefully simplistic and self-indulgent book, no matte...more
Ngugi is one of the preeminent voices in East African Literature. I really haven't read very many East African novels, but I enjoyed the two of his book's I read. I remember this one better, so I decided to review it.

As with many colonial and post-colonial authors, Ngugi had a long history of fairly vocal dissent and conflict with government authority. In fact, this novel was reportedly composed on toilet paper while he was in a Kenyan prison. "Devil" is fundamentally revolutionary literature ai...more

This review be a lil sloppy cuz i'm just like piling all my thoughts about it together.....
When i first started the book, i wasn't very enthusiastic about it. There were a lot of things i didn't understand and the names and words in Gikuyu confused me. It took me a long time to get through the introduction/beginning section of the novel. However, the second half of the book was a lot more interesting and by then I became more familiar and comfortable with reading Ngũgĩ's style of writing. The bo...more
Jessica Lynne Gardner
I appreciate books that don't scream their entire message right away. A good book should expect your undivided attention as well as your devotion to finding the trail of bread-crumbs that leads to the overall point. This did not disappoint. A book banned in many countries, there are plenty of fascinating shadows to explore within the darkness of this novel. Beautifully allegorical, religion, neo-colonialism, sexism and a rich history are left for the reader to make sense of and take sides. It is...more
By far the weakest Ngugi I've read. While it still has some of the same great characterisation and pissed-off political analysis as Petals Of Blood and Wizard Of The Crow, it far too often turns into something that reads more like a play than a novel, where characters representing various factions simply recite long monologues of Post-Colonial Marxism 101 at each other. The fact that he wrote it while imprisoned for political crimes (supposedly, the chapters are of varying length because he wrot...more
Susan Stroupe
Jul 26, 2008 Susan Stroupe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everyone
This is one of my favorite books ever. Ngugi is certainly one of the master writers out of central/east Africa, and this is one of his masterworks. It captures the overall feel of post-Colonial Africa in storytelling what all those academic books seem to still strive to do. I had a much better sense of the situation in immediate post-Colonialism, and I think it's still very relevant today. The book itself is an amazing combination of narrative, song, and fable, so it might be slightly jarring to...more
Andrew Ssempala
As always, Ngugi never tires of the the theme of struggle against colonial and neocolonial influences. That's what his novels are majorly about. In fact Kenya suffered more from the effects of a long settled European class who had established themselves as an upper class above the natives and even taken their lands. "Devil on the Cross" is the post-colonial equivalent of "Weep Not Child", his even more successful novel. Am glad I read this book, for it told me a lot about the men who run the eco...more
Just finished reading this one for my Literary Crticism class, and WOW! A truly amazing book. The style is quite different from what I'm use to reading, but I was able to get my bearing after about 30 pages or so. There's so much I want to say about this book, but I can't quite put it into words. Read it. You won't be disappointed. Don't let the style, subject, and the fact that it was written for a specific audience detour you.
Terry Clague
A novel written on toilet paper during the author's incarceration in the late seventies, and another book which seems more appropriate to be performed than read, this astounding novel is a damning indictment of Kenyan corruption / opressive capitalist regime. The mixture of fantasy and realism is not something I'm personally comfortable with, but it's a tribute to the author that the reader soon forgets this device.
Sofia Samatar
The rhetoric is heavy here, but the critiques, particularly of the idea of "African Capitalism," are razor-sharp. Even if you find the politics and the one-dimensional nature of some of the characters a drag, the book is worth reading for that critique, and for the way it expresses oral stylistics in writing. When was the last time you read a book translated from an African language?
I read this book in college, but it has stuck with me as one of the more articulate, fictional works about colonialism and Africa. It's relatively easy to follow the symbolism and to find parallels between the characters and today's political actors.
Good book but gets a little long here and there. The ending left me with some distaste... I was mixed about the sudden change in a character who reacts, well, out of character. The end message makes one think whether you should agree with Ngugi or not.
this book sucked. the social commentary ive heard before for any other tyranical society. it was repeating stuff we learned in other classes that is too depressing for us to care now. really boring. the end was okay. but it was still boring and indulgent.
written by nugugi on a roll of toliet paper while he was held captive in a prison in Kenya. That says enough but also just really speaks to the reality of life an African nation and the affects of colonization. I learned so much from this book.
Powerful tale filled with songs and parables debating issues like imperialism, modern capitalism, gender roles. It is beautifully written. Wariinga, its heroine comes through numerous struggles and immerges brave and wise.
Sep 10, 2012 Phumlile marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have a test on this book tomorrow but from the few pages i read, up until the Devil's got interesting but ONLY because the lecturer cleared what was happening. I also wish I did not have to read it for class
This is a Kenyan novel written largely in parables about the evils of imperialism. A little difficult to read at first, but it doesn't take long to get used to the rhythm of the writing and the names of people and places.
Erik Garris
Well - I remember reading this about 10 years ago and liking it...even though I don't remember much now. However, I don't remember much of anything, so that doesn't indicate that it was a forgettable book by any means.
Zach VandeZande
A clearly important work that attempted to define a national literature while positing that there may be no peaceful way out from under oppression. Good stuff.
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Kenyan teacher, novelist, essayist, and playwright, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers. After imprisonment in 1978, Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor of Gikuyu, his native tongue. The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity ha...more
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“What Waringa tried hard to avoid was looking at the pictures of the walls and windows of the church. Many of the pictures showed Jesus in the arms of the virgin Mary or on the cross. But others depicted the devil, with two cow-like horns and a tail like a monkey's, raising one leg in a dance of evil, while his angels, armed with burning pitchforks, turned over human beings on a bonfire. The Virgin Mary, Jesus and God's angels were white, like European, but the devil and his angels were black.” 5 likes
“Our people think: I , Wangari, a Kenyan by birth - how can I be a vagrant in my own country as if I were a foreigner.” 5 likes
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